Developing a new defence policy?

Anything to do with the Air Corps...

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Post by mark » Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:07 pm

Last August, Jersey based member 'Akerosid' started this thread in the hope of developing a policy debate on Defence policy.

As a contribution to this debate and in the context of a forthcoming magazine article, the editorial team would like to make the following observations and hopefully stimulate further debate on this matter.

First in relation to the original post a few points of info: -

* Jets: A subject that is done to death. No only are "new Typhoons, Rafales etc" not practical but also anything second hand that are not effectively trainers such as the hawk, L139 etc are out too. This is not only because of the cost (both capital and ongoing) but also because we simply don't have the air defence infrastructure, radars, command & control systems etc to make such investment worthwhile. The only air defence capability available to the Defence Forces is the Flycatcher Radar System bought second hand in 2002 from the Dutch Armed Forces which is used to carry out the Target Acquisition and Fire Control of the Bofors EL70 40 mm Air Defence Guns and the Giraffe G40 Radar system acquired from Sweden in 1986 to exercise command and control over RBS 70 Surface to Air Missile Firing Units. Apart from that there are a myriad of other competing priorities for the Air Corps but also other branches of the Defence Forces as well.

* Unfortunately Defence spending is "deadweight" spending unless you have a war. It is also a fact of life to quote the Department of Defence Strategy Statement 2005-2007 that while significant additional resources for equipment and infrastructure will be provided this will be done "broadly within the existing level of financial allocation." Given that this allocation includes once off funding from the sale of barracks and other cost saving the difficulty in attracting further funding cannot be over emphasised.

* Defence Expenditure as a % of GNP. The following figures for 1997 to 2006 are informative 1997 (?646m/1.08%), 1998 (?662m/0.96%), 1999 (?702m/0.91%), 2000 (?759m/0.85%), 2001 (?858m/0.88%), 2002 (?861m/0.81), 2003 (?855m/0.73%), 2004 (?887m/0.71%), 2005 (?920m/0.68%) and 2006 (?958m/0.66%). However, comparisons are difficult not only due to the phenomenal rise in our GNP from ?59,577m in 1997 to ?144,650m in 2006, but also due to the relatively small size of the Defence Forces and other factors.

*Use of the RAF. It is untrue to say that we have to call in the RAF and RN. Its years since their involvement was a major factor and indeed the last occasion they were called in was in 2003 when the Irish Coast Guard requested additional assistance with the possible evacuation of 155 passengers on board a ferry that had engine trouble off the Tuskar Rock. RAF assistance would have complemented the Irish Coast Guard helicopter resource. That?s the only request since 1997.

*"Naval aviation detachment". First we need the ships. Having a specialised service for just one ship and tying up an expensive asset is simply not practical. If we had a number of helicopter equipped ship it worth be worth looking at, as the crew could be qualified for other aspects of ship operations. Otherwise they would be merely passengers. Even then it would be a difficult balancing act to maximise resources both crew and equipment.

*unwillingness to take defence seriously". Unlike Sweden or Switzerland we never faced the threat of invasion seriously or had the resources over the years to do anything about it. The composition of the Defence Forces is largely based on the real threat presented that of the internal security role.

*"Having an air force of a neutral foreign country set up a training base here." Where in Ireland could Singapore for example get the facilities here they get in Australia or indeed Cazaux in France where they conduct Advanced Jet Training? In addition they have five major airbases themselves as well as conducting specialist training in the US. The arrangement proposed seems impractical, that we could use their aircraft with our crews in the event of a threat. Don't know anywhere where such an arrangement has been tried.

*The European context. We have committed to the Nordic battlegroup but is EU assistance to buy C-295 or C-27 troop aircraft likely? Finland and Estonia currently have no such assets and the Finns are likely to have to acquire them from their own resources. Given the size of our involvement and the likely scenarios for our deployment a combined VIP/transport aircraft Airbus A.320/319 or Boeing 737 might provide a useful addition to the overall force.

* "A well trained and highly professional Air Corps". I think we have that at present. Just under ?330 million has been spent in recent years getting us to where we are now. Another ?40 will be spent this year. The reality is that even if we double that (which we should) we would only get a small incremental improvement in capability. The immediate needs are clear, more helicopters, replacement for the C172s and improved airlift capacity. What's more important is a long-term commitment to the Air Corps so that investment is evenly spread and not required all at once. Its needs a long-term fleet replacement and funding policy, that the need not expensive air defence assets.

In relation to 'Nanolight' where would you move the Air Corps to? Cork? Shannon? and if so where would they be accommodated and who would pay?

In relation to 'mini' apart from the cost where would we get C.130s? Most of the second hand ones are clapped out (as the Dutch have discovered) and as for the C130Js..... they ain't selling for a reason. Don't doubt your experience but remember our ?30m-?40 million annual Air Corps budget. You?re nearer the mark in your second post regarding the GIV replacement.

Can't fault 'Turkey' first analysis "begin developing Bal' as a proper modern military airbase suitable for operating a much larger number of helicopters and fixed-wing assets"

The same points are valid for 'dowlingm' as 'Nanolight'. Also see not point in dispersing the few assets we have round the country - afterall we tried that and it was wasteful in terms of assets and resources (Finner/Gormanstown). Government aircraft he is effectively suggesting outsourcing. This has cost a lot for SAR and you lose the expertise as well as not owning any assets.

The other suggestion for Baldonnel would face nightmare planning scenarios. On balance rather than face that the Government would look at the housing option (more money less trouble).

We assume that "" was joking about swapping with Weston

and finally back to 'Akerosid'

Looking at aircraft and trying to justify them by finding something for them to do is not the way to go. If we had a C27J or a C130J (perish the though) we would need to be getting 700-800 hours annually to justify the cost. Otherwise other options become more financially attractive. If you are really being honest the reason why you can't see a light interceptor jet, like the Hawk, MB339 or L159 happening is the cost and the practicalities of operating them in a true air defence role. Why in the name of God would the Germans want to operate PC-3 Orions out of Shannon? Where would you put them and the Air Corps CASAs?

Maybe 'angels-high' has the right idea "join NATO and it will all be sorted out".

Thank you all for contributing to the debate.

The Editorial Team

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